Tree Haus district in Steamboat planning upgrades
State tells district to improve its water filtration equipment
Steamboat Springs — The Tree Haus Metropolitan District is working toward water system improvements after a 2009 analysis showed concerning levels of particulate matter that, officials say, do not present significant health concerns for residents of the subdivision.
“The water is safe to drink,” said Andy Poirot, an engineer for the Water Quality Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment. “I don’t think residents have to do anything extraordinary with their drinking water.”
Nonetheless, the state is requiring Tree Haus to improve its water filtration equipment after May 2009 water samples that Poirot said were “like a tea color” and indicated high levels of microorganisms during spring runoff.
Poirot said a micro-particulate analysis confirmed those levels.
“We gave (Tree Haus) 18 months to either upgrade their treatment plant to filtration or find another water source,” he said Tuesday.
A notice distributed Feb. 25 to Tree Haus homeowners states that because that timeframe “has lapsed,” the state public health department is requiring quarterly public notices until improvements are completed.
“People with severely compromised immune systems, infants, and some elderly may be at risk,” states the notice, which advises those people to seek advice from health care providers and lists an Environmental Protection Agency safe water hotline at 1-800-426-4791.
Jim Kohler, president of the Tree Haus Metropolitan District’s board of directors, said construction of a small building that will house new filtration equipment for the subdivision’s water system could start in late spring. The building will be adjacent to Tree Haus’ small water intake facility, near River and Mount Werner roads. Construction of the new building is priced at nearly $1.1 million, but Tree Haus board member Bob Kuusinen said that figure includes high-contingency costs and could come in at less than $900,000 when construction is completed later this year.
Kuusinen said upfront funding for the project came from state loans, which will be paid back through the mill levy assessed to Tree Haus homeowners. But he said homeowners’ tax rate won’t increase — it just won’t decrease after the recent repayment of a bond for road improvements. The tax level will be maintained, Kuusinen said, with revenues shifted from one debt to another.
Kohler said the Tree Haus subdivision contains 100 homes, about half of which house full-time residents.
He said the water system upgrade is part of statewide improvement efforts.
“All we’re doing is adding some improved back filters to the system, so we can filter to a finer degree to improve the quality of the water,” Kohler said.
Jay Gallagher, general manager of the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, said the Tree Haus upgrades are not related to Mount Werner services.
“They’re a whole separate water system there,” Gallagher said. “We take their wastewater over by Fetcher Pond, and we convey it to the city’s interceptor, but that’s our only involvement with them.”
Bruce Thompson operates the Tree Haus water system on a contract basis and reported the initial concerns in 2009. Thompson also is employed by the Mount Werner water district, but the two duties are not related.
Poirot said Tree Haus water concerns are largely isolated to spring runoff periods. He said he would expect Thompson to notify his department if concerns arise this spring and said his department could request a boil order if health risks occur.
“If (homeowners) are concerned about it, of course, they can always boil their water or install their own filtration device, but they’re not required to by us,” Poirot said. “I’m comfortable with what (the Tree Haus district) is doing.”
— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com
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